Second graders at Germantown Friends School display boxes of pasta they have gathered for the Great Food Fight.

by Meg Cohen Ragas

If we collect one gross of pasta boxes, how far are we from having 100? If the first grade brought in two pounds of pasta on Monday and they doubled that amount each day, how many pounds would they have in all by Friday? What does 50 pounds of pasta look like?

These are just some of the mathematical equations Lower School students at Germantown Friends School have explored as they participate in the second annual Great Food Fight, a competitive, inter-school food drive sponsored by Shire Pharmaceuticals that benefits Philabundance, an organization that delivers food to needy families in the Philadelphia area, 23 percent of whom are children.

Susan Shechtman’s second grade class is leading the Lower School’s 1,000 Pounds of Pasta Challenge and, with one week to go, has collected 405 pounds of spaghetti, rigatoni, shells, elbows, ziti—any and all types of noodles imaginable.

“The Lower School at GFS has always valued and supported the giving of food to our Philadelphia neighbors in need,” Shechtman said. “The bringing in of a favorite dinner ingredient or that familiar box of cereal has been a way to encourage generosity and support the understanding that each one of us can make a difference in the lives of others, even if you are only 8 years old.

“When the ‘big kids’ decided to enter the Great Food Fight! … the idea of pounds of food entered our thinking: What is easy to weigh? What is a food that everyone likes? What is affordable and filling? One thousand pounds of pasta felt like a worthy goal. From Kindergarteners to fifth graders, the little kids at GFS have set a big goal, and they are counting and feeling proud of every pound along the way.”

The students have risen to the challenge, sorting and stacking the boxes of pasta as they tackle grade-appropriate math problems. A survey asks for data on a spaghetti and meatball versus mac and cheese preference.

A laundry basket filled with 50 pounds of pasta invites kids in the lobby to try lifting 50 pounds of noodles. Boxes are piled in 10-pound stacks, and the students do the math to see how far 43 is from the next 100 pounds.

A bar graph posted on the wall, reaching to the ceiling, announces the pounds gathered—405, as of Feb. 24— and what still needs to be collected. As one second-grader put it, “It’s not impastable to reach the 1,000-pound goal.”

Germantown Friends is one of 21 schools participating in the Great Food Fight! this year (ending March 2), with the grand prize of $10,000 going to the school that collects the most food. Last year, GFS beat out the much larger Penncrest High School in Media to take first place.

Is a second win in the cards? Anything’s pastable.